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The Education of a Generation at Stake

“My younger daughter still screams at night and cries out to me, “Why are these people coming to kill us?” Sanaa Mahmoud, remembering the terrors of war in Khartoum from the safety of a Sudanese refugee reception centre in Cairo. Watch her moving account in Aljazeera’s Conflict takes devastating toll on children

Tragically, Sana’s story is only one of thousands being lived out by parents and children whose world have been turned upside down by continued fighting in the Sudanese capital. Watch as 11-year old Ali tells of his experiences of the conflict in Through the Eyes of a Child (UNICEF).

Fighting in Sudan rapidly worsening already dire humanitarian situation for children.

Children Bearing the Brunt – Overview of a Crisis

The Impact on Universities and Schools

Our Response at Women’s Education Partnership

Children Bearing the Brunt – Overview of a Crisis

“Even before the current crisis, 7 million children in Sudan were not in school and 2.7 million children were living with malnutrition. The full damage to health facilities and schools is still unknown. We urgently need to ensure all children have access to food, water and medical care – their lives are at risk.” (Arshad Malik, Country Director, Save the Children, Sudan). Every day the war continues, food and health insecurity worsens and the logistics of the bringing in international aid and emergency relief staff become increasingly fraught. For the impact on Sudanese medical services, coping with the bombing or seizure of hospitals, maternity and pediatric centres, the theft of medicines and compromising of vaccine storage, see Medics in Sudan warn of crisis as health service near collapse.

School closures have forced millions out of their classrooms – leaving one in three girls and one in four boys unable to learn. Children were also struggling with poor quality education. Some 70 per cent of ten-year-olds are unable to read.(UNICEF; Fighting in Sudan rapidly worsening already dire humanitarian situation for children). The present crisis only weakens already precarious access to an educational system reeling from the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic and recurring strike action in both schools and universities, increases in education fees and even lack of access to money as banks are looted or burned. Many schools have been severely damaged or destroyed; collateral damage of aerial bombing or artillery fire. Photo, right, children of some of our women’s literacy participants at Jebel Awlia before the outbreak of war.

See too Sudan Teachers: Strikes disrupted by new ‘predatory exam schedule’ for students and Teachers to maintain strike until all demands are met

School closures throughout the capital as bombing continues in densely populated areas goes hand in hand with the disruption of vital international aid programs alleviating acute child malnutrition – Sudan is at extreme risk of starvation by the autumn if food insecurity worsens. These crises are exacerbated by the forced displacement of civilians, looting and increasing lawlessness.

It has been estimated that 370,000 children have been forced from their homes and at least 190 children were killed in the first days of the conflict. As Sudanese families – some 800,000 of them – flee the capital and other regions as the conflict spills out beyond Khartoum, many find themselves in makeshift camps on the Egyptian and Chadian borders with limited access to food, water and medicines, exposing “millions of children to grave risks to their health, safety and wellbeing”, (UNICEF). Photo above, screen grab from Conflict takes devastating toll on children.

Above, some of our elementary school beneficiaries in happier times.

Children are living the horror of war firsthand, witnessing a terrifying catalogue of bombing and destruction. It is unthinkable that a child should have to assimilate the sight and smell of unburied corpses littering the streets and live in fear that a stray bullet will kill someone they love. Yet this is the reality. The young boy pictured above with tears in his eyes stands alone amidst the rubble of his home as he recounts to Aljazeera Arabic the loss of his friends, pleading “Destruction. I swear by God, we don’t want any more.”

Doctors are already encountering numerous cases of post-traumatic stress disorder among children as well as adults. It is hard to say what the longterm impact these experiences will have. As the war goes on, the risk of recruitment of children into armed groups and their exposure to sexual violence can only rise.

The Impact on Universities and Schools

At the start of the war, shocking reports emerged of students at Khartoum University being trapped for several days as shelling raged overhead. One student was killed and had to be buried by his fellow students within the university grounds. Their eventual evacuation is reported in New York Times footage. Left, some of the 88 students sheltering in Khartoum University (screen grab Aljazeera Arabic Facebook, also reported in BBC Arabic.

The suspension of university courses, coupled with little or no power or internet coverage has effectively brought university life to a halt in Khartoum. Staff and students alike have been forced to flee the capital, many leaving for Medani, Kordofan or Egypt. The war has tragically seen the violation of the integrity of university premises; in the case of Alia University in Omdurman, resulting in the loss of unique and irreplaceable Sudanese cultural archives, pictured right. Below, recent Al-Arabiya footage claiming to be of fires in Al-Mashreq Univerisity buildings in Khartoum Bahri.

The Ahfad University for Women in Omdurman has been particularly affected, suffering the raiding and looting of its premises, the intimidation of its staff and the theft of both university and private cars there by paramilitaries.

Numerous schools have been damaged or destroyed by shelling or have been occupied by armed groups. In the early days of the war, 55 pupils and teachers of The Comboni High School, Khartoum found themselves sheltering in the school grounds with gunfire overhead. For the half a million youngsters hoping to take their school certificates in June, there is confusion, frustration and dashed hopes:

“Qism al-Sayed has remained diligent in his studies throughout the last period after choosing to major in the science course in hopes that he would become a doctor or an engineer in the future, he said to the Sky News Arabia site, despite the great obstacles encountered during the school year in Sudan, he became scientifically and morally ready to take the secondary school exams, which were due to take place on June 10. A few days after the high school exam date, war breaks out between the military and the Rapid Support Forces, so Muhammad finds himself displaced to West Kordofan state with his family. His dreams and aspirations of achieving a high pass rate evaporated with him…”

War destroys the High School in Sudan

Our Response at Women’s Education Partnership

Above, left Mrs Neimat Issha, our Country Director and right, Mrs Adila Osman, our literacy and elementary schools coordinator.

Neimat has just updated us on the situation. She writes:

There has been massive damage to infrastructure including schools and some universities. Ahfad is one of the universities we support and has been greatly affected. We hope to continue our existing educational programs for at least 6 months and maybe more. We will need to think about developing projects online but we really need to support children or students affected by the war too before continuing their education.

I think the examinations for Sudan Certificate which was supposed to be in June will be delayed to next year. War is still continuing and we expect more damage of infrastructure including schools. In most other states in Sudan the education authorities have allowed children who fled there to continue their education. This is good but we don’t know whether it will be of help since many families in Khartoum have traveled to Egypt, Ethiopia and some to Saudi Arabia, so not all children from Khartoum have benefited from this offer

Photos above, happier days for Khartoum’s students, copyright,, used under licence.

What we are witnessing in Khartoum is incalculable damage not only to infrastructure but to the very fabric of Sudanese civil society. So many have lost everything they had, are unable to work and are suffering both physical and psychological trauma. Analysts fear the country that will emerge from this conflict, if it doesn’t descend into full-blown civil war as the arming of both paramilitaries and civilians sadly gathers pace, will be the Sudan of 1950s levels of poverty and development. And once again, women and girls will be most vulnerable to the loss of access to education.

Given this, we can only restate our commitment to the education of Sudanese women and girls. In this period of watchful waiting, we are exploring ways we can support our pupils, students and literacy attendees both materially and online while the conflict continues and are preparing to re-establish our programs as soon as peace returns. We will update you as soon as we can on our work and plans for the future. In the meantime, we thank you for all your kindness and patience as we see how events unfold.

When peace is restored, the education of women and girls will play an even more vital role in Sudan’s recovery. Please consider supporting our work. You can help rebuild civil society through the education of women and girls at a time when it has never been more needed.

Just click on the link below to donate. Every donation makes a huge difference.

Women’s Education Partnership Donate

Learn more about our women’s literacy, orphans schooling and university scholarship projects programmes below:

Opening Doors – Our Women’s Literacy Programme

Our University Scholarships giving bright young women the chance to go to university

Scenes from Our Orphans’ Schooling Programme and From Hardship to Hope Our Orphans Schooling Programme

Women’s Education Partnership

3 comments on “The Education of a Generation at Stake

  1. John Poole says:

    Dear Ingrid,

    This is so good. Can we send your mailing to the whole Roundtable? There’s no point in cherry picking from it – it is all good.


    John 23 Leylands Lane, Bradford, BD9 5PX m: 07981 791066 p: 01274 401679


  2. Simon John Boyd says:

    Thank you for this post that says so much.


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